Down the Garden Path of Least Resistance: Shrub Cloaking in Crysis

Crysis blog on sneaking through the jungle

Cloak. Move. Hide in a Shrub. Recharge.

Don’t you just love attention grabbing, gimmicky openings to blog posts?

Cloak. Move. Hide in a Shrub. Recharge.

But sometimes, it’s just easier to start writing when you’ve got a gimmick to kick things off.

Cloak. Move. Hide in a Shrub. Recharge.

And this pretty accurately represents my time with the recently console-ified Crysis

Far from being the robo-suit wearing Predator I’m creeping along, checking my environment from bushes and, when I’m absolutely sure that it’s not going to get me killed, picking off the odd straggler with a scoped, silenced headshot. Which is fine, but not exactly what I’ve been promised.

This is one of the troubles with leaving players with the choice of approaches to open environments. One tactic always, eventually wins out and it’s hard to look beyond it. In Crysis’ case, the old shrub-cloak has proven to be the best way to get through any situation – even if it’s a little slow. In Metal Gear Solid 3, crawling slowly around the outside of the area was always the path of least resistance. And in Far Cry 2 (sequel to Crysis’ spiritual predecessor) discovering an optimal murder technique and becoming a monotonously efficient killer was kind of the point.

When a player hits on one of these tactics, it’s hard to resist the urge to utilise it whenever possible. Even though I know that I could sprint into the centre of this shanty-town, leap onto a roof and fire a missile at that tank to take out 3 guys before jumping down, punching the building I was standing on to crush the guys inside – I also know that I wont. For I am a Shrub-Cloaker. I’ve actually gotten out of a tank because I know it won’t be as effective as Shrub Cloaking.

This is, perhaps the price you pay for genuine ‘openness‘ in games. Seeing a search party of 4 or 5 guys stalking through the forest in Crysis doesn’t quite have the same effect as watching a single guard approach down a corridor with a flashlight in Splinter Cell. To be fair, it’s probably more of a flaw with me than it is with Crysis or any of the games mentioned above (in spite of MGS3’s ‘circle the area’ tactic, it’s still my favourite game of all time.)

That being said, some of  this is down to the games themselves. With recharging health, recharging energy and all of… oooh, 6 weapons? there’s not much incentive to chance it and get right into the middle of things in Crysis, especially when it’s so easy to operate on the peripheries of most areas. There’s a reason why I’ll stick my face into a rad-scorpion pit in Fallout and it’s not because I find the hissing sound soothing.

It’s an idea that Steve Gaynor puts across brilliantly in his post “Basics of effective FPS encounter design (via F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2)” which echoes around my head every time I play pretty much anything where I’m holding a gun.

In the same way that a writer needs to put his/her characters through the wringer, I think a sneaking game (which I consider Crysis to be) needs to force the player go right into the middle of the map at some point and do the absolute worst thing they can imagine having to do there. That could be for in-game rewards or as part of the story.

In a game where you can turn invisible or bullet proof and sprint faster than a car, “throwing sticky explosives onto a stationary artillery ‘thing‘” isn’t the worst thing I can imagine doing. On the other hand, in Metal Gear Solid 2 when I’m a girly haired cart-wheeling rookie alone on a weird oil rig who hasn’t found the suppressor for his incredibly loud gun… the worst thing I can imagine doing is searching for explosives with a can of coolant spray in a heavily guarded area.

In Crysis, I imagine I’ll Shrub-Cloak my way to the end of the game unless something weird happens like giant flying squid aliens start attacking but what are the chances of that?


2 thoughts on “Down the Garden Path of Least Resistance: Shrub Cloaking in Crysis

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